Frankenstein crops now legal in Europe

A decision allowing farmers to grow genetically modified (GM) maize crops throughout Europe has been made this week in Brussels.

Up to 17 different varieties of GM maize seeds can now be legally grown in any country in Europe following the European Commission's (EC) decision. A proposal has also been sent to the Council of Ministers to authorise the import and processing of GM oilseed rape.

Grassroots organisation Friends of the Earth (FoE) have condemned the decision, saying that it will threaten Europe's agricultural industry and take away the consumer's right to choose whether they want to eat GM food (see related story).

"The Commission's proposals are a recipe for disaster. They will lead to the widespread contamination of Europe's food, farming and environment and take away consumers' rights to avoid GM food," Geert Ritsema, GMO campaign coordinator at FoE Europe said.

She stated that the only way to prevent this from occurring was by individual governments taking the initiative to pass their own laws making the crops illegal, and she urged all European member states to step in and ban the seeds.

However, the EC's other decision to drop from the agenda any discussion of legalising widespread GM crop contamination was commended by FoE.

"The Commission now has a golden opportunity to bring out better proposals that will protect people and the environment," Ms Ritsema said. "Public safety must come before the financial interests of the biotechnology industry."

So far Denmark is the only country to have put "co-existence" measures in place to prevent the uncontrolled spread of GMOs amongst conventional crops, which Ms Ritsema said was highly likely without such rules being adopted.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was unable to comment on the EC proposals. However, a Defra spokesman confirmed there is currently a moratorium agreed with the UK industry that there will be no GM crops in the country at this point in time, and plantings will be unlikely until at least 2008.

By Jane Kettle



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